Perhaps the most important question facing humanity today

    I’m currently working on a longer essay about the weird shake-up between left and right politics that the pandemic brought forth, but before that one sees the light of day, I’d like to ask you an important question, which you can answer in the comments section below.

    How can you see yourself, or humans in general, benefitting the natural world? How can we give back to the living order in some form of reciprocity for all the gifts of life it has bestowed upon us? Is this even possible in your opinion, or are humans doomed to be takers only, like some aberrant lifeform set loose on the natural world? Often we focus our efforts on minimizing our impact, with the tacit assumption that our impact can only be negative, therefore the less of it the better. But what if our impact could be positive?

    And I’d like you to think beyond just repairing the damage already done; think about how we might go further and use our aptitudes for technology and understanding to make this planet an even more welcoming home for all of life. To reintegrate ourselves back into the ecosystem from which we emerged. To assume the responsibilities that come with being a keystone species. To figure out what humans’ unique contribution to life might be.

    Other species do it. Earthworms aerate and fertilize the soil, legumes “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into the earth in a form that plants can utilize, beavers create rich wetlands, trees clean the air, predators manage prey populations, squirrels plant tree seeds, phytoplankton sequester carbon, ants provide grounds cleaning services, and fungi help break down wood into soil. The rest of the world seems engaged in a give-and-take ecological economy that if added up would balance out at zero – no one species taking more than it gives in the end.

    Why do humans seem to stand outside this multi-billion year evolutionary dance? We take way more than our fair share of resources and create waste streams so impregnated with toxic chemicals that few of our Earthly co-habitants can do anything with it. Every year, we convert more and more of the Earth’s finite molecules into piles of useless garbage. We are actively de-enlivening the planet – taking a rich biosphere that evolved from lifeless minerals and rolling in back to its more inanimate origins. In its place grow our structures and machines, our sterile farmlands, our pavement, our landfills, and more and more of us.

    But humans haven’t always been this way. In fact, in all of homo sapiens’ 300,000 year history, only the last few thousand have been problematic, particularly the last few hundred. As recently as 500 years ago, millions of our species lived in harmony with all the varied ecosystems of the 14,000 km stretch north to south of the Americas. The survivors of the genocide perpetrated on them by invading Europeans live here still today, and hold answers to the question I’m asking, as indigenous peoples do in other corners of the world, living in the shadows of colonialism.

    But how many of the settler people, of whom I am one, can still even fathom how to be of service to the Earth? We seem to have totally forgotten.

    I have some ideas of my own, but I’m keen to hear what other people have to say. This might be the most important question facing humanity, and the rest of life, today. I strongly suspect that we humans can’t keep living thinking of ourselves as outsiders to the natural world for much longer, and in our own demise we could set life back by millions of years. We will either realize we are intricately interconnected to this biosphere, or it will forcefully reassert that reality in ways our species will not like. Our illusion of disconnection is at best a temporary mirage.

    And for a bonus question, if you’re up for it: what can we do to foster in humanity the will and ability to see our connection to nature and the desire to respect that bond? Because belief always precedes action. We’ve got the inertia of at least 2,500 years of the wrong kind of beliefs behind Western civilization, propelling us forward towards the cliff. It’s a big ship to turn around, but more and more people can now clearly see the cliff, so perhaps in the end the urge for self-preservation will prove stronger than the myth of freedom from nature.

    Please make your voices heard below.

    3 thoughts on “Perhaps the most important question facing humanity today”

    1. Because belief always precedes action.
      this would be a typical discussion at an academic, environmental or arts conference, or an advisory panel/peer jury at a provincial or national Arts Council.
      Arts are the language where people can work at subconscious levels, seeding things that can rise to conscious levels. History has given us proof.
      You do this by writing…you have invited connection….will this filter out through other arts/social forms, till the science you share becomes a larger/social belief, maybe critical social action?
      Arts have imitated the military in airborne leaflet propaganda; Laurie Anderson’s film after Lou Reed’s passing plays with the concept of “things from the sky”(although this may be a poor reference b/c it was her dog, fearing a large hungry bird; the nine-eleven vibe ever-present)
      We are in a time, where artists/thinkers of all types can?should?do connect AND ACT beyond their quotidian bubbles; to work ACROSS sectors. So many artists (all types) talking, making work about social change…but their brilliant energy stays within their field/personal arts systems.
      Belief always precedes action…but sometimes the GREATEST hurdle is believing in your ideas enough to ACT beyond your bubble; stop worrying about one’s disciplinary gatekeepers. (e.g. Academics who fear collaboration-across-sectors b/c it affects chances of “getting published”; possibly loss of position). I would rather be talking about the soil and look forward to reading your longer article here.
      cj en village

    2. Hi Sean 🙂 Great question. My thoughts here – I think we are in process of awakening to our humanity and the reality of the interconnectedness, or relational aspect of our nature. In my world view, we are not part of nature, we are nature. Nature is us. As though we are looking at the trees without realizing we are the forest. In the same way a baby, around 2-3 months, maybe 4, suddenly awakens to the realization that those dark blobs that circle around now and again and impact them, are their own hands/arms, of which they have full capacity to manoeuvre. Did you catch that moment with Noah, or others? The stunned look and awe-filled moments last a couple/few days before they move into a burst of energetic movement with conscious awareness and intent, moving their hands and arms with fully realized intent and knowing. I see that we too are in this place of awakening, where that moment will come to shift our perspective in a profound way towards a heightened understanding of what our true nature is, what we are and are not, the implications of how this shifts our historical perspective and our future together.
      As that shift dawns, the ability to converse/communicate/understand the language that has always been there shaping us, will come to the forefront in such a way that there’s no going back to previously dense and less conscious perspectives. We will be forever collectively altered, relating synergistically, with clearer purpose based on a more unified understanding of what it all means to be and to co-create with life. Until that dawning, our continued growing compassion eases the way, creating a greater allowance and acceptance of things as they are. Trusting in the process, while expanding a sense of faith quickly brings our fears to the surface to met, loved, transformed. We are weaving a new understanding together, based on peace. These are my current thoughts, perspectives and evolving explorations. Thanks for asking! 🙏✨💖

    3. Thank you Sean!
      This question #1: I spend most of my idle time pondering this subject…words sometimes can not do the thing. I will humbly share my humanness here…as I have so much to learn and feel more like I know less every day I wake.

      Original wound: disconnect with Nature
      How can humans benefit the Natural World without coming to terms with their adolescent behaviour (in Nature’s eyes)?
      Human’s have lost connection to selves ….lost self value…self awareness…all through their disconnection with their natural environment…their place of belonging…being.

      Human’s will have to rediscover the ability to see the preciousness of this moment on our Earth.

      Rekindle Community connection…sharing connected space with other human beings…and non human earth beings. The sacred connection of all…”the I am because you are”. I have been hearing the word co-creation ringing in my ears for a while now.
      What if we hugged more…energetic sharing of space…hugged trees, rocks, elders, neighbours… way more….all the time. What if we learned to lay on the forest floor with our grief and let it go as if it was not ours and let our Earth care for that grief. What if when we hugged we liberated a light energy inside of us…through that sharing…that enabled us to know ourselves more authentically….as a result of knowing the huggee that much more authentically.

      What if our brain was not the driver…thinking was not sooo wise in the end…what if we all recognized the true wisdom in our hearts.

      We see the vibrant green forest…do we recognize the frequency of LIFE that invokes deeply inside us at a cellular level… a feeling of care and LOVE. Can We just merely take the moment to feel this and listen to the deep inner peace this lifeforce evokes. Slowly…gently…wonder…fully. Can We reawaken the memory in our cells of dozens of generations of our ancestors that lived this wonder.

      Can we imagine…3 or 4 generations without war….all that time and lives to heal war trauma….and experience the full expression of JOY unencumbered.

      Wisdom of Elders: Humans are probably the most adaptable creatures on Earth…most pliable…shapable..flexible…confusable. Do We need the WISDOM of an Old White Pine to anchor us to our inner wisdom…to find our place on this beautiful home we call Earth? All creatures on Earth know their place…do WE? We definitely have the most potential highest number of expressions of beauty that nature can imagine. We can realize this only through finding our place….each and every one of us! We really need that solid anchor of the PINE…or we loose track of ourselves…and we get what we have on Earth now…CHAOS!

      Can We find the wisdom in ourselves to become authentic Human Elders once again…solid and wise…patient and peacefully caring? Can We see the Nature of Elderhood as something to behold…something truly connected with the Wisdom of Nature…not store away in an institution somewhere in the suburbs….can We relearn how to choose Elderhood again…spend a Life preparing to become an Elder…and relating to our KIN as an Elder. When boys and girls call the shots…We will live in a world of adolescent mindset. Can We loose the fear of growing old and wise?

      What if we measured our success as a nation through the quality of our SOIL-WATER-AIR….call it SWA instead of GDP. IS Soil fertility depletion related to male fertility depletion?? We need to reconnect to regenerate our SWA. Are we here to stay and play…????? The dance of Earths beauty will persist whether we are here or NOT…55 million years ago , 95% of life on Earth went extinct…Life came back more beautiful than ever…maybe our amnesia is the design. I believe it is our choice…to stay and play.

      Daily practice: Let us all float into space for a moment and look back at our wonder of a home…so unbelievably beautiful…and one of a kind. Our Earth: A single organism floating in dark space. Precious living space…what an experience to be alive now on this Earth of ours. Can we become human again and then consider how we can be a benefit to the Earth. Stewardship is an honour…

      CJ is right…we need more ART…ART has never done any harm to our Earth….and this is definitely a human gift…like no other creature.

      We all need to commit to a Massive Transformative Purpose. Nature dies. We die…but we need to be reborn every moment into a more connected place with Nature. Deep in our bones we need to burn brighter inside…right now! Let’s all go sit in circles in the forest and take moments to feel deeply in our shared hearts the reverence of this miracle….this precious place unmade by man. This Church not made with Hands! (80’s band called the Waterboys).

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